The jaunty and amoral Liane the Wayfarer has no idea that he's in way over his head (even including the long red feather blinking and winking in his g..Show More »reen cap) as "The red sun, drifting across the universe like an old man creeping to his death-bed," begins to set.
If you want to hear funny, scary, and moving stories about desperate questers after knowledge, beauty, or love in a beautiful and terrible far future earth in which the dying sun sheds bloody ruby light on eroded mountains and ruined cities as the decadent remnants of humanity live amid exotic (and often deadly) flora, fauna, magical artifacts, and half-remembered dreams of long past achievements and legendary figures, then you should give The Dying Earth a try.
The capable reading by Arthur Morey evokes the odd mixture of sardonic wit, decadence, hope, and imagination of Vance's book. Morey's voice is dry, but savory, and he pronounces Vance's strange names and unusual words clearly and changes tone appropriately for wizened men, giant demons, guileless or deceitful "girls" (i.e., women), tiny dragonfly riding Twk-men, self-centered rogues, determined wizards, man-eating Deodands, forgotten gods, and more. I would listen to more Dying Earth books narrated by Morey and highly recommend this one.
This is one of my favorite books, and it is great to hear it aloud. Jack Vance' style is literary, ornate, baroque, challenging, decadent. He makes up..Show More » words, and re-purposes words that have fallen out of common vocabulary. This is book 2 of The Dying Earth, set millions of years in the future, as the wretched remnants of humanity wait for the sun to go out. Magic and science both work, within limits, and the remains of epochs of civilization (including the products of genetic engineering) are all around. I enjoy the contrast of what is happening (theft, violence,hunger), and the elevated language the characters use to converse. Cugel is amoral, not quite as clever as he thinks he is, and just trying to survive.
Like its companion novel, Eyes of the Overworld, Cugel's Saga is an odd duck of a book, nominally fantasy, but different from most popular fantasy in ..Show More »setting and style. It takes place on a far future Earth, where magic exists, the Sun is about to go out (or so the inhabitants of the world believe), and all manner of odd people, weird creatures, and bizarre societies occupy their own corners of the world. The writing is very tongue-in-cheek, mixing high-minded language and ideas with low humor, and the hero of the story, Cugel, is about as much of a vain, swindling, self-serving rogue as can be imagined. Exiled to a distant beach by a magician that he failed to rob in the previous book, Cugel wanders through a wholly different series of misadventures than before, each time coming up with some clever scheme to enrich himself, and almost (but not quite) pulling it off.
Despite the overt silliness of affairs, Vance is a smart, literate writer, and the clever exchanges between characters can be a hoot. Everyone on the Dying Earth, it seems, from cart boys to sorcerers, is an amateur philosopher, theologian, legal scholar, or student of etiquette, though many are as amusingly corrupt as Cugel himself. A number of the situations he gets implicated in have a parable-like meaning, if one reads between the lines. And the background world seems full of half-forgotten myth and history, which, while never explored in much depth, gives the story's details a tapestry-like richness. (Speaking of which, if you're interested in a more serious-minded cycle of books set on a similar end-of-Earth world, I highly recommend Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun series, which was directly inspired by Vance's Dying Earth, and takes it to a whole new level.)
As with Eyes of the Overworld, the episodic nature of the story and lack of recurring characters limits its depth, but if you're in the mood for something imaginatively *different*, either or both novels are worth a read. I thought this one had a bit more continuity than its predecessor and made Cugel a little more sympathetic, so I liked it more. I also enjoyed the audiobook narrator's inspired choice of making Cugel sound like Richard Nixon.